Saturday, March 31, 2012
Marc Faber : I don’t think we are on a permanent plateau of printing but understand. If you start to print it has the biggest impact, then you print more, it has a lesser impact unless you increase the rate of money printing very significantly. And, the third money printing has even less impact and the problem is like the Fed, they printed money because they wanted to lift the housing market but the housing market is the only asset that didn’t go up substantially. We have bottomed out in many markets. I can see that but across the board real estate has not been effected positively from money printing. But what hasn’t been affected positively from money printing is the price of silver, is the price of gold, and of equities that have more than doubled from the lows in 2009. - in Chris Martenson interview
Now consider them in context:
1) 2.2 percent is the average interest rate on the U.S. Treasury's marketable and non-marketable debt (February data).
2) 62.8 months is the average maturity of the Treasury's marketable debt (fourth quarter 2011).
3) $454 billion is the interest expense on publicly held debt in fiscal 2011, which ended Sept. 30.
4) $5.9 trillion is the amount of debt coming due in the next five years.
For the moment, Nos. 1 and 2 are helping No. 3 and creating a big problem for No. 4. Unless Treasury does something about No. 2, Nos. 1 and 3 will become liabilities while No. 4 has the potential to provoke a crisis.
In plain English, the Treasury's reliance on short-term financing serves a dual purpose, neither of which is beneficial in the long run. First, it helps conceal the depth of the nation's structural imbalances: the difference between what it spends and what it collects in taxes. Second, it puts the U.S. in the precarious position of having to roll over 71 percent of its privately held marketable debt in the next five years -- probably at higher interest rates.
First Among Equals
And that's a problem. The U.S. is more dependent on short- term funding than many of Europe's highly indebted countries, including Greece, Spain and Portugal, according to Lawrence Goodman, president of the Center for Financial Stability, a non- partisan New York think tank focusing on financial markets.
The U.S. may have had a lot more debt in relation to the size of its economy following World War II, but the structure was much more favorable, with 41 percent maturing in less than five years, 31 percent in five-to-10 years and 21 percent in 10 years or more, according to CFS data. Today, only 10 percent of the public debt matures outside of a decade.
Based on the current structure, a one percentage-point increase in the average interest rate will add $88 billion to the Treasury's interest payments this year alone, Goodman says. If market interest rates were to return to more normal levels, well, you do the math.
Some economists have cited the Treasury's ability to borrow all it wants at 2 percent as an argument for more fiscal stimulus. Why not, as long as it's cheap?
Goodman says the size of the deficit (8.2 percent of gross domestic product) or the debt (67.7 percent of GDP) is only part of the problem. The bigger threat is rollover risk: "the same thing that got countries from Portugal to Argentina to Greece into trouble," he says. "It's the repayment of principal that often provides the catalyst for a market event or a crisis."
The U.S. is unlikely to go from all-you-want-at-2-percent to basket-case overnight. That said, policy makers would be wise to view recent market volatility as a taste of things to come.
Talking to Goodman, I was reminded of the Treasury's standard sales pitch before quarterly refunding operations during periods of rising yields. Some undersecretary for domestic finance would be dispatched to tell us that Treasury expected to have no trouble selling its debt.
I had an equally standard response: At what price?
That seems particularly relevant today. The Federal Reserve purchased 61 percent of the net Treasury issuance last year, according to the bank's quarterly flow-of-funds report. That's masking the decline in demand from everyone else, including banks, mutual funds, corporations and individuals, Goodman says.
Of course, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke might look at the same numbers and see them as a sign of success. His stated goal in buying bonds is to lower Treasury yields and push investors into riskier assets.
Free to Borrow
Then there's the distortion in the relative value of stocks versus bonds to worry about. Using the 10-year cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio and the inverse of the 10-year Treasury yield, Goodman says the relationship hasn't been this out of whack since 1962.
The Treasury isn't unaware of the rollover risk. At the same time, it's trying to accommodate the increased demand for "high-quality liquid assets," such as Treasury bills, as required under new international capital-and-liquidity standards, says Lou Crandall, the chief economist at Wrightson ICAP in Jersey City, New Jersey.
In fact, when Treasury bills carry a negative yield -- when investors are paying the government to hold their money for three, six or 12 months -- borrowing "more is better," Crandall says.
Still, the dangers are very real and were highlighted by Bernanke himself last week in the second of four lectures to students at George Washington University. Explaining why the decline in house prices had a greater impact than the drop in equity prices less than a decade earlier, Bernanke talked about "vulnerabilities" in the financial system. Too much debt was one; a reliance on short-term funding was another.
I doubt he had the Treasury in mind when he was explaining how the subprime debacle morphed into a global financial crisis, but the U.S. government would be wise to heed his advice. Currently its demand on the credit markets for annual interest and principal payments is equivalent to 25 percent of GDP, Goodman says, 10 percentage points higher than the norm. That's real money. And with the federal budget deficit projected to top $1 trillion for the fourth year running, the funding pressure is bound to increase.
So the next time you hear someone say the Treasury can borrow all it wants at 2 percent, tell him, that's true -- until it can't.
from King World News:
Today multi-billionaire Hugo Salinas Price told King World News a complete catastrophe is unfolding in Europe. He also called Fed Chairman Bernanke “a vampire” and urged people to hold gold and silver because they will be the last things standing. But first, Salinas Price warned about the serious dangers we are facing: “I think that unless we see legislation, somewhere, that is rational and recognizes that gold and silver are really different forms of money, and that this whole scheme of paper is unworkable, then the world is going to go down in flames. The only thing that would last will be people’s savings of gold and silver.”
Hugo Salinas Price continues: Read More @ KingWorldNews.com
Is the great 30-year bull market in bonds coming to an end? Yes, perhaps — or maybe not: It depends on whom you ask and how flexible your timing is.
While many people think of bonds as conservative holdings, they have produced stellar returns for decades, thanks to the taming of inflation and other factors. A basket of stocks would have returned a mere 19% from the start of 2000 through 2011, for example, while a basket of bonds would have returned about 113% through a combination of rising prices and interest earnings.
But many experts say economic recovery could now reverse the process by driving interest rates higher, causing bond prices to fall. Yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury rose to around 2.25% in March, after hovering around 2% for four months. "I think bonds are less attractive than they have been for a long time," says Scott Richard, Wharton practice professor of finance.
But rising rates and falling prices are not necessarily coming so soon, according to Wharton finance professor Franklin Allen, who notes that short-term rates in Japan have stayed extraordinarily low for many years. Though the odds favor a rise in rates, strong demand for high-quality bonds, particularly U.S. Treasuries, could persist for some time, he says, keeping prices high and yields low. "I think [Treasuries] are still very much a safe haven, and that's why interest rates are so low, even though there are many things to worry about." He adds that there is a chance they will stay low "for a very long time."
However, according to Wharton finance professor Krista Schwarz, "It's virtually impossible to forecast future yields. One can talk about risks to the upside and risks to the downside, but both risks always exist."
From Bull to Bear
Clearly, the U.S. economy is gaining steam, though slowly. Typically, that causes interest rates to rise, which drives bond prices down — turning a bull market into a bear. But the economy has had false starts in the past. Signs were good early in 2011, but progress stalled amid the European debt crisis and the tsunami and earthquake in Japan. Most experts agree that economic signs are even stronger this year, but many warn that progress could be derailed by government debt problems in the U.S. and Europe, rising oil prices and ripple effects from a slowdown in China and other emerging markets. In the U.S., the troubled housing market continues to dampen recovery. (more)
"The eternal optimists would have us all believe that China will awaken from its slumbers amid a blaze of new, debt-fuelled spending initiatives and so buy up all the goods we find so hard to sell at home (without offering a substantial concession in price)" is how Sean Corrigan begins his assault on the non-reality that is China's 'save-the-world' protagonists. It is worth noting, however, that those who actually invest in the place seem to be too busy selling their equities to pay much attention to the Panglossians and Polyannas. With a 10% slump in the past 12 sessions in the main indices (retracing a major fib interval of the 2012 rally), there seems little enthusiasm there for clinging on in the hope that the PBOC will bail anyone out - and the wedge is closing on something big in the chart. Plain vanilla economics might well be correct in telling the bulls that they may rely on a Zhou Xiaochuan Put to spare them too much future pain, but the law of the political jungle, red in flag, tooth, and claw, may well dictate otherwise. As we write, it seems beyond dispute to say that the Chinese hierarchy is battling it out behind closed doors to determine the long term future of the regime and, by implication, the direction of the entire nation. In such momentous times, we would perhaps be foolish to think that the routine application of short?term countercyclical policy will bear overmuch weight in their counsels. Simply out, there is too much political infighting for any large-scale action to be taken as "Having moved against the state-capitalist left of old man Jiang and his Chongqing bruisers, surely the last thing Hu & Co. would want in their final months in office would be to unleash another oligarch?enriching orgy of speculation of the kind such a mass stimulus would be almost bound to foment."
Anecdotal evidence continues to belie the highly suspect official statistics upon which so many blind macromancers routinely base their case. Growth in Shanghai port traffic has slowed to a virtual crawl – under 4% YOY – as have rail freight ton?miles ? a sub?5% increase in the first two months which is less than half the trend rate from before the crisis – while electricity use for the first two months (unseasonably cold ones full of residential heating demand, at that) was only 6.7% above the like period in 2011, the smallest increment (excluding the Crash itself) in a decade. (more)
The Outlook For REAL Money Only Gets Stronger
The Cartel Will be COMPLETELY DESTROYED
It cited more fragile funding conditions, increased regulatory burdens and a tougher economic environment for its review of banks and securities firms with global reach.
Moody's [MCO 42.10 0.58 (+1.4%) ] salvo follows rounds of downgrades in European sovereign ratings as the euro zone's struggle to keep its weakest link Greece afloat has been driving up borrowing costs and straining finances of other nations.
Last Monday, Moody's cut the ratings of six European nations including Italy, Spain and Portugal and warned it could strip France, Britain and Austria of their top-level AAA grade. (more)
Macau is the only venue in town (gaming on the mainland is restricted). So the region draws heavily from a population of 1.3 billion people that live within a short three-hour flight.
Las Vegas Sands' Venetian Macao resort has been a hit with both high-rollers and everyday players since it opened. Even in the first three months of 2009, when Macau's total visitor count dropped almost 10%, the Venetian Macau saw a 14% increase (6 million visitors). This glamorous resort, which anchors the famed Cotai Strip, almost prints cash.
Las Vegas Sands has two other properties nearby, the premium Four Seasons Resort and the Sands Macau (the first American resort to crack this market). The newest addition, slated to open in April, is the Sands Cotai Central -- a 5,800 room resort with every amenity imaginable to coax Macau's day-trippers into spending more time.
The past couple months investors have been focusing on the equities market. And rightly so with stocks running higher and higher. Unfortunately most money managers and hedge funds are under performing or negative for the first quarter simply because of the way prices have advanced. New money has not been able to get involved unless some serious trading rules have been bent/broken (buying into an overbought market and chasing prices higher). This type of market is when aggressive/novice traders make a killing cause they cannot do anything wrong, but 9 times out of 10 that money is given back once the market starts trading sideways or reverses.
While everyone is currently focusing on stocks, its important to research areas of the market which are out of favor. The sector I like at the moment is precious metals. Gold and silver have been under pressure for several months falling out of the spot light which they once held for so long. After reviewing the charts it looks as though gold, silver and gold miner stocks are set to move higher for a few weeks or longer.
Below are the charts of gold and silver charts. Each candle stick is 4 hours allowing us to look back 1-2 months while still being able to see all the intraday price action (pivot highs, pivot lows, volume spikes and price patterns).
The 4 hour chart is one time frame most traders overlook but from my experience I find it to be the best one for spotting day trades, momentum trades and swing trades which pack a powerful and quick punch.
As you can see below with the annotated charts gold, silver and gold miner stocks are setting up for higher prices over the next 2-3 weeks. That being said we may see a couple days of weakness first before they start moving up again.
4 Hour Momentum Chart of Gold:
4 Hour Momentum Chart of Silver:
Daily Chart of Gold Miner Stocks:
Gold miner stocks have been under performing precious metals for over a year already. Looking at the daily chart we are starting to see signs that gold miner stocks could move up sharply at the trade down at support, oversold and with price/volume action signaling a possible bottom.
Daily Chart of US Dollar Index:
The US Dollar index has formed a possible large Head & Shoulders pattern meaning the dollar could fall sharply any day. The size of this chart pattern indicates that if the dollar breaks down below its support neckline the we should expect the dollar to fall for 2-3 weeks before finding support.
Keep in mind that a falling dollar typically means higher stock and commodity prices. If this senario plays out then we should see the market top late April which falls inline with the saying “Sell In May and Go Away”.
Precious Metals Conclusion:
Looking forward 2-3 weeks precious metals seem to be setting up for higher prices as we go into earning season and May. Overall the market is close to a top so it could be a bumpy ride as the market works on forming a top in April.Chris Vermeulen
Where Are We in the Boom/Bust Liquidity Cycle?
By Thomas Fahey, Associate Director of Macro Strategies, Loomis Sayles
In an often cynical world, standard financial and macroeconomic quantitative models give people the benefit of the doubt. Fundamental economic theory assumes the best of us, supposing that human beings are perfectly rational, know all the facts of a given situation, understand the risks, and optimize our behavior and portfolios accordingly. Reality, of course, is quite different. While a significant portion of individual and market behavior can be modeled reasonably well, the human emotions that drive cycles of fear and greed are not predictable and can often defy historical precedent. As a result, quantitative models sometimes fail to anticipate major macroeconomic turning points. The ongoing debt crisis in Europe is the most recent example of an extreme event shattering historical norms.
Once an extreme event occurs, standard models offer limited insight as to how the ensuing crisis could play out and how it should be managed, which is why policy responses can seem disjointed. The latest policy responses to the European crisis have been no exception. To understand and respond to a crisis like the one in Europe, perhaps we need to consider some new models that include the “human factor.” Economic historian Charles Kindleberger can offer some insight. In his book Manias, Panics, and Crashes, Kindleberger explores the anatomy of a typical financial crisis and provides a framework that considers the impact of the powerful human dynamics of fear and greed. Kindleberger’s descriptive process of the boom and bust liquidity cycle can help shed light on the current European sovereign debt saga, and perhaps illuminate whether we have in fact turned the corner on this financial crisis.
KINDLEBERGER AND THE MINSKY MODEL
Kindleberger analyzed hundreds of financial crises dating back centuries and found them to share a common sequence of events, one that followed monetary theorist Hyman Minsky’s model of the instability of a credit system. Fundamentally, the more stable and prosperous an economic structure appears, the more leverage and speculative financing will build within the system, eventually making it highly vulnerable to a surprising, extreme collapse. Kindleberger provided the qualitative (as opposed to quantitative!) description of the Minsky Model, shown below, which is a useful snapshot of the liquidity cycle. It can be applied to Europe and any potential boom/bust candidate, including Chinese real estate, commodity prices, or investors’ recent love affair with emerging markets. Kindleberger famously dubbed this sequence a “hardy perennial,” probably because the galvanizing human conditions of fear and greed are more often than not prone to overshoot fundamental values compared to the behavior of a rational individual, which exists only in macroeconomic theory.
The boom typically starts with a “displacement,” a macroeconomic shock (for example a new technology, deregulation of an industry), that creates new profit opportunities. For Europe, displacement came in the form of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in 1999, which united participating countries under a single monetary policy and currency, the euro. By establishing one interest rate for EU member states, EMU enabled all participating sovereigns to trade as if they possessed Germany’s superior creditworthiness, regardless of their fiscal condition. The obliging market responded by lending to EU countries indiscriminately. (more)